It’s finally summer! If you’re a business owner or someone responsible for a company’s sales success, that phrase may mean something different to you. While your friends and family who have 9-to-5 jobs enjoy lazy weekends off the clock, you’re always balancing growing your company and trying to have a personal life. But with warm weather, long days and endless BBQs, trips and outdoor activities, you don’t want to work every hour of every weekend.
As a fellow business owner, I get it! There is always too much to do and sometimes working nights and weekends is a requirement—especially if I want to have time to sell during the week. Since I can only really sell during regular business hours, I carve out time each day to focus on selling time.
As a business owner, you may not like sales. So, you may procrastinate and do everything else you can think of rather than spend time selling. Or, you may just be busy serving the clients you have. Either way, you will eventually be sorry if you are not constantly prospecting or coaching your salespeople to do so. Keeping your sales funnel or pipeline full is one of the most important jobs you have along with closing business.
So, how do you keep a pipeline full and manage not to work every night and weekend this summer? I’ve got a strategy that I teach my clients, and I want to share it with you.
What is Selling Time?
First off, let’s define what I mean by “selling time.” It’s any time you spend prospecting, qualifying, educating or closing—or coaching your sales team to do the same. It can be in-person, on the phone, through email or social media. It qualifies as selling time if you are learning about the needs of a prospect to determine if there is a good fit between what they need and what you sell.
So, What Should You Do?
As a business owner, there are some key selling activities that you can do or coach your sales team to do. They include:
- Spend time each day prospecting. You can meet people by phone, email, social media, in person (one-on-one), or at networking events. Make sure you have at least one networking event each week with the people most likely to buy from you.
- Qualify any prospects that show interest. Ask good questions and listen so you can quickly determine if there is a good fit. Educate your qualified prospects, so they understand how your product or service meets their needs. Suggest they demo your product or call a few satisfied customers. Handle any objections that come up and make sure the prospect has all the information they need to make the right decision. Don’t delay. Sales cycles are long enough without you or your salespeople prolonging them.
- Work on closing deals. Keep track of where you are in the sales cycle with each prospect and be sure to close any deals that are ready to be closed. Once the prospecting and closing are taken care of you can go back to see where your other opportunities are and move them forward.
Making Time For Sales
To get your priorities completed you have to plan ahead. Your calendar is your best friend. If used properly, it will help assure you have time set aside for selling among all of your other activities.
Here’s what I recommend: Plan your daily, weekly, monthly and annual selling activities and put them on your calendar along with your other tasks.
You should also plan time for planning.
Crazy, you say? But, this is time well spent! Remember this activity has a direct impact on your revenue!
- Daily: Choose a time (I prefer first thing in the morning or at the end of the previous day) to plan your upcoming day. This should take you about 15 minutes if you have done your weekly planning. Before you check email and voicemail and before everyone else’s priorities get in your way, take a look at your schedule and priorities for the day and make any necessary adjustments. Make sure you have time scheduled for your sales follow up. Add your daily planning time to your calendar.
- Weekly: Put a 30-minute appointment on your calendar each week to do your planning. During this time, look at your upcoming week. Put scheduled meetings on your calendar, travel time, and time to do follow up on sales calls and networking. Include several blocks of time a week for selling and pick a time of day when you are at your best. Block time out on your calendar to work on your to-do list. One to two days before each sales call, add a 30-minute block to do your sales call planning. You need to block several hours for prospecting every week.
- Monthly: You’ll need one hour a month to plan for your upcoming month. I like to do this 10 to 12 days before the end of the current month. Take a look at the big picture so that your weeks can run smoothly. Put any planned meetings or events on your calendar for the month ahead. If you have a trade show coming up or a sales presentation, be sure to block off plenty of preparation time to prevent having to pull an all-nighter. Last minute rush jobs are never our best work. If you plan to have enough preparation time, you can save yourself a lot of agony.
- Annually: Planning for the upcoming year should happen in October or November. Set several hours aside to set goals and make your plan. You can schedule the events, programs, conferences, trade shows, promotions and other activities you will need to meet your goals as well as the planning time needed. I like to block time 12 weeks in advance of a show or event to do the planning. Adequate planning time helps things run smoothly.
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Give Yourself a Break
With all this planning, make sure that you carve out some time for you! Nothing is fun or easy when you are tired and crabby. And if you are tired and crabby, please don’t try to sell! You need to be at your best when selling.
Use your calendar to plan and schedule so that you have time to do the things you need to and so that you get some time for yourself. Selling is always easier when you are in a good mood.